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From Annette To Bieber: Teen Idols Then And Now

Teenage stars, from Annette Funicello to Justin Bieber. What is their role in, for, society?

 This 1955 file photo provided by Walt Disney Co., shows Annette Funicello, a "Mouseketeer" on Walt Disney's TV series the "Mickey Mouse Club." (AP/Disney) Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs on stage during the "I Believe Tour " in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP)

This 1955 file photo provided by Walt Disney Co., shows Annette Funicello, a “Mouseketeer” on Walt Disney’s TV series the “Mickey Mouse Club.” (AP/Disney) Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs on stage during the “I Believe Tour ” in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP)

Annette Funicello died this week at 70.  She was twelve years old when Walt Disney made her a Mickey Mouse Club star.  So squeaky clean she didn’t show her belly button when it came to Beach Blanket Bingo.

Not so for the latest generation of onetime Disney stars.  Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens break out hot and rough in Spring Breakers.  From Shirley Temple to Funicello to Lindsey Lohan to Justin Bieber, there’s a pattern in what we want and what we get in child stars, teen stars.

This hour, On Point:  the role and the arc of the very young in stardom.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jane O’Connor, senior lecturer and research fellow in Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. Author of “The Cultural Significance of the Child Star.”

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN “Annette Funicello, one of the best-known members of the original 1950s ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ and a star of numerous 1960s ‘beach party’ films, died Monday at a California hospital, the Walt Disney Co. said. Funicello, who was 70, ‘died peacefully from complications due to multiple sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years,’ the Disney statement said.”‘

Washington Post “Despite the films’ mildly naughty titles, Ms. Funicello’s clean-cut reputation remained intact. ‘Go ahead and have fun — the good, clean fun,’ Ms. Funicello recalled Disney saying. ‘But I have one request. I know everyone will be bikini-clad. I’d like you to look different. Would you wear a one-piece suit, or if it’s a two-piece, please don’t expose your navel.’”

USA Today “In a note on her Facebook page, Jada Pinkett Smith is sticking up for Justin Bieber and Quvenzhane Wallis, and any other young star in the media today. She writes: ‘How can we ask for our young stars to have a high level of responsibility if we are not demonstrating that same level of responsibility towards them?’”

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